We Are Resisting Church Cover-Ups and Helping Abuse Survivors Seek Justice
Unfortunately, reports of sexual and physical abuse by church and religious leaders has become increasingly commonplace over recent years. Some of the victims of that abuse, many of whom were children when it happened, have received substantial financial settlements and jury verdicts. Others are still waiting for justice.
Abuse by clergy and religious leaders typically leaves victims with considerable trauma because, on top of the violation, it may ruin their relationship with spirituality and faith—something that might otherwise be helpful to the healing process. Because the perpetrators of the abuse are leaders of a church or religious community, victims may believe they have not actually been abused until years later. It often takes immense courage and strength to come forward in this situation.
Ashcraft & Gerel is here to support you in your search for justice. Organizations that have continually covered up and perpetrated abuse, and sought to deal with issues internally rather than involving law enforcement, must be held accountable.
Clergy Abuse Is Far Too Common
Because most churches and religious organizations try to handle reports of sexual abuse internally, fearing the impact such accusations would have on their organization, identifying the number of people who were molested or abused by a religious leader is difficult. For as many stories as have come to light lately, doubtless others remain buried. The information that has emerged paints a grim picture of many religious organizations:
- Around 380 leaders and volunteers in Southern Baptist churches have been accused of sexually assaulting one or more church members.
- Nearly 3,500 reports of sexual abuse involving minors were found credible by the Catholic church between the years of 2003 and 2013.
- Overall, Catholic churches have named over 5,100 church leaders accused of sexual assault.
- 1.5% of Australia’s Jehovah’s Witness population was credibly accused of sexual assault; U.S. leadership holds an undisclosed record of reports that is thought to contain at least 10,000 entries.
- 1 in 2 women and 1 in 3 men who attended the United Methodist Church have experienced sexual harassment, according to a church study in 2005 and 2007. More than a third of this abuse is committed by clergy.
Other traditions, including those led by small and/or local churches, have also faced accusations of assault leveled at leaders. Every detail that emerges shows the horror victims of this abuse have endured, often without recourse.
Sexual Abuse Hurts in Many Ways
Abuse by a clergy member does not just fracture a child’s trust in authority figures and impact their relationship with their faith. It can also have long-lasting physical and psychological effects.
In addition to the physical injuries caused by sexual abuse, survivors often suffer mental and psychological injury. Diagnoses of depression, anxiety, and complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are common among those who were sexually abused as children. Aside from requiring specialized treatment, mental distress and illness caused by abuse may interfere with an individual’s attempts to finish their education, start a career, and form healthy relationships with others.
State and federal laws allow victims of abuse at the hands of clergy and religious figures to seek financial compensation for the harrowing injuries and damages they have suffered. For those abused as a child, many states have extended statutes of limitations to allow for filing of lawsuits well into adulthood. Over recent years, countless victims have used the civil justice system to hold accountable those religious figures, churches, and organizations that perpetrate abuse.
We understand it can be difficult and frightening to come forward with your story of abuse, especially if the offender is a loved and respected member of your community. Many people hesitate to seek justice for this reason. You deserve support and justice after everything you have endured. Your bravery may also help others escape abusive situations.
We believe those who come forward to report sexual assault, abuse, and rape. Our team will support you in every way we can, respecting your privacy as we provide legal guidance. Ashcraft & Gerel is here to work with those who were sexually assaulted and abused, to hold the individuals who committed this heinous act accountable.